The fiscal cliff legislation signed into law Tuesday had a surprise for people in the wind energy business. It renewed wind tax credits which were set to expire last month.
The Port of Duluth-Superior has been exporting and importing wind blades since 2005. Port Trade Development Director Ron Johnson says it’s a big commodity, "They're huge. They're making the towers taller and the turbines more powerful."
The wind-lobbying group American Wind Energy Association says 75,000 people work for 500 manufacturers in the United States. They say extending the tax credit for wind projects that start construction this year will save half of those jobs.
Johnson agrees, "People were just waiting on the sidelines. There's a lot of people laid off. The whole timetable came to a crunching halt. Now with this, hopefully it can kick-start it and get the process ramped up again."
Minnesota Power has 111 wind turbines, 101 of them in North Dakota, a $500 billion investment. Company Strategy and Planning Vice-President Al Rudeck says this may spur more of that, "This is a new development so we'll re-evaluate if we can do more wind, whether it makes sense to do more wind right now or whether it makes sense to stay on the path where we had more wind planned for later in the decade."
Although Rudeck says this extension is good news, he doesn’t think it’ll be needed in the long-term, "The wind developers and wind turbine suppliers have really matured their offerings quite a bit so like a lot of budding technologies and industries across the country the ethanol industry was another one that had a long-standing credit that recently expired and they're continuing to be successful."
Xcel Energy says they will be re-evaluating their wind energy plan too because of the extension.